Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pick Up Trip: Last Days as a Family of Two

I started this post 3 weeks ago! And now, we have been home just over 6 weeks with our kids. If you count the 10 days we were with them in country, we have now been a family of 4 for seven weeks! I am doing a little catch up blogging as I have a chance. It is Saturday morning. Martin is still sleeping but Emi is awake!

Andrew and I flew out Saturday, May 16 from the USA to Bulgaria! 

Excited and ready to go!

Thanks to Andrew's parents for dropping us off at the airport!
 We flew to Toronto, had a short layover, then had our long, overnight flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Our emotions were lots of excitement to see the kids after 7 months of being apart, along with some nervousness about parenting. Thank you to Andrew's brother Dan for the cards he wrote to both of us about becoming parents! We enjoyed reading them on the plan!

We had a 5 hour 5 minute layover in Frankfurt. I had researched ahead of time and was armed with a plan to leave the airport and see a little of Germany. We didn't know if we would ever have a chance to be in Getrmany again. This was our last chance for a great adventure before children were added to our family. We took the subway three stops from the airport to the central station in Frankfurt.

Outside Central Station in Frankfurt, Germany.
 We walked along the Main River in a beautiful park to the old town square in Frankfurt. The weather was perfect.

Main River and St. Bartholomew's Cathedral

Walking along the Main
 We walked through the old town square which had typical old German architecture and a statue & fountain of the goddess Justitia, representing justice. Many of them were destroyed in WWII and have been rebuild according to original plans/blueprints.

Old Town Square

Huge clock we walked under on our way to the church.
 Our goal in all this walking was to go to St. Bartholomaus Cathedral. When we arrived, a service had recently ended and the church was open. We entered and sat on the back pew and spent a few minutes praying for our growing family.

This beautiful cathedral survived WWII bombings.
Our view from inside on the back pew.
We then walked back to the subway station and rode three stops back to the airport. We made it through security in plenty of time, found our gate, and had time for a nap. Our next flight was from Germany to Bulgaria. When we arrived, our translator, Ivan was waiting for us with a smile and a hug and Dimo our driver was waiting at the car. We rode to our apartment, got settled in a little bit to our apartment, and went to bed.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Puzzles, Pictures, and Pajamas

Here are a few snapshots of the evenings in our home!

Martin - Pajamas and a Puzzle before Bed

Emilia in her Pajamas working a Puzzle just before Bed

Pajamas and Pictures:
Discovered the Chalkboard in the Basement just before
We all Went to Bed in the Basement

Bedtime - Oh all the things I could say.  This post is really more about documenting for myself what life is like now. So one day when I get around to scrapbooking our photos, I will be able to remember. But you, my blog reader are welcome to read my personal notes on our life now.

In Bulgaria during pickup trip it went pretty well. Martin and Emilia were sleeping on twin beds in the same room. We gave them bathes, read them a story or 2 or 3, and sat with them until they went to sleep, then crashed in our own bed in the other room. It was one of the best parts of the day. Both seemed to be sleeping through the night fine. Emilia would get up and go to the restroom in the night and go back to sleep on her own.

Then we came home to America. The kids had 2 separate rooms, across the hall from each other. We kept the same routine, taking turns, with who put whom to bed. And our son got up every night, multiple times a night. He was scared. One of us would get up, go upstairs, and put him back to bed and stay with him until he fell asleep again. Then try to quietly go back down stairs. Sometimes he would wake up when we tried to leave or shortly there after and we would have to get him to sleep again. We could tell that he was afraid and trying to stay awake. I would call it hyper-vigilance.

All these trips up and down the stairs (combined with our jet lag) lead to Andrew and I being exhausted. So Andrew and I moved the futon mattress of the futon and into his room. Then when he woke in the night we didn't even have to get out of bed. We could just tell Martin to lay back down, momma and daddy were here. Most nights that worked. There were a few times were he seemed greatly afraid and would still fight sleep and it would take us longer to get him back to sleep. (Later, we had a translator come to our home and he told the translator that the older kids in the orphanage beat him up at night. No wonder Martin is sometimes terrified at night!)

But Emilia was jealous. She wanted us to either go back down stairs or to sleep in her room. I did sleep occasionally on the floor in her room on the seat cushions off our couch. We began having some behavior problems with her in the day.  She was not attaching to us. We decided that Emilia's need to feel loved and to attach to us was just as important as Martin's need to feel safe at night. (Emphasis on feeling safe and loved. As parents, we cognitively know that we love them both and that they are safe. But their being loved and safe has to be felt by them!)

On July 4th, we stopped in at Walmart (well I went in, Andrew sat with the kids in the car) and bought 2 twin air mattresses and an eggshell topper for the futon. We moved the futon mattress back down to the futon in the basement. Our entire family now sleeps in the basement. Andrew and I sleep on the futon (which is now much more comfortable thanks to the eggshell topper.). Emilia and Martin sleep on either side of us on an air mattress.

I am not crazy about this sleeping arrangement. Sometimes the kids goof off and make each other laugh when we are trying to get them to sleep. When they were in separate rooms they did not do this. I miss my comfortable bed. I almost never have alone time with Andrew since even at night we are with our kids. But for now, this is what is best for the kids and our family. It will not be forever. It could be 6 months or a year, but not forever. Eventually our kids will be attached to us and feel safe in our home. I doubt they will want to sleep in the same room with us when they are 14 or 15. (What teenager wants to sleep with their parents?)

We have done this for 6 nights now. Emilia is already showing huge improvements in behavior and has started returning my affection. (For several weeks she had been ignoring my affection.) On Wednesday, when I kissed her good night she kissed me in return! (For several weeks now my affection has been ignored!) Last night, I was stroking her hair as she went to sleep and she reached out and stroked my hair in return!

Bedtime isn't easy. Due to attending an adoption reunion 2 weekends ago and being up late every night, and to staying up late for fireworks on July 4, the kids are going to sleep a little later. Also, it is hard to get them to bed on time because they haven't seen Andrew all day. When Andrew comes home from work, we eat supper, then the kids want to play with him. Emilia wants the whole family to play hide and seek. Martin wants to go to the park and bat soft balls and also play cars with Andrew. We set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes of hide and seek and we must leave the park by 7pm. Then they both take a turn in the bath and have a bedtime snack and story and we go to bed. We are getting better at getting them to bed on time! In Bulgaria, it didn't matter if they got to bed late because Andrew didn't have to get up and go to work early in the morning. But here, if they go to bed late, that means we all go to bed late and Andrew doesn't get enough sleep!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Happy 1st July 4th to 2 New American Citizens!

Hi blog readers. We have been home from Bulgaria with Martin and Emilia for about 5 weeks now. It has been a big transition for our family and I have not had time to blog! I did want to share a few pictures from our kids first July 4th (or "Happy Birthday to America" as we explained it to them!)

I invited our family over to our friend Craig's and Vivaine's house for 4th of July. (Because I am learning that I have to ask for help during this transition! I can't do it without Jesus and the support of family and friends!) We went to brunch and had blueberry pancakes at Craig's and Viviane's, who have been giving us wonderful support through this post adoption adjustment for our family. Craig watched all 5 kids (our 2 and there 3) while Vivane listen to me cry about some of the hard parts of adoption and gave me wise advice from her own years of parenting 3 children through adoption. Thank you so much Craig and Viviane! We left your house feeling refreshed and encouraged!

Last night, our little family of 4 went to a local park for a fireworks show! The kids LOVED it! I enjoyed having a happy family time together and getting to snuggle with Andrew and watch the fireworks with him and Martin and Emilia. (Couple time has gone down since adding kids and we try to catch a few minutes to be together whenever we can!)

LOVE our family!
Martin and Emilia enjoyed some sparklers while waiting for the fireworks to begin!

The fireworks were beautiful and lasted for about 30 minutes. I loved that patriotic music played while we watched the show. Every time there was short few second pause between fireworks going of, "Martin would ask me "All done?" Emilia said "Boom-cho-co-la-ta!" Then came the grand finally! Oh how they loved it! On the way back to the car Martin was saying "Happy Birthday to you, America!" and "I love you, America" and explaining to me "boom, boom, boom, 20, 21" (the grand finally, and counting to show that there was a lot of fireworks all at once!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pictures from Meeting Martin

In October 2014, we spent 5 days getting to know our son Martin. No that we have passed court and he is legally ours, we can share pictures with you!

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of or with Martin on the first day we met him.

Mother and Son

Soaking up the Affection

Lunch together in a local restaurant

Third day in a row spent in a hotel room due to weather! Martin is doing just great though!

So glad I have the privilidge of being your mother!

Father and Son

Horsey Rides are a favorite!

Help with Sand Art from his foster mother, Tanya

We had hoped for a playground in the mall, but found this sand art place instead!

Making presents for Andrew, me, and Tanya

A few cents buys a lot of fun!

The mall also had an arcade place

Shooting basket balls together

I know he is going to miss his foster mother and sister!

More Horsy rides!

Last photo together before saying goodbye

So thankful for Martin's foster parents! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pictures from Meeting Emilia

Here are pictures from our trip last October when we met Emilia. We enjoyed getting to know her over five days!

Day1: Read about our first day visiting Emilia here.

We had just met Emilia and were sitting on the back deck of her group home where she served us tea and banitsa.

At the park together. Can you tell how happy we all are?

Becoming a family

We pushed Emilia on the swing every single day we visited! 

One of my favorite photos!

Andrew and I would take turns standing behind and pushing and standing in front and pushing her feet. We usually sand to her as we pushed her on the swings. I think Andrew is doing the Itsy Bitsy Spider in this picture.
Day 4: Read about our fourth day visiting with Emilia here.

Getting Visa pictures taken
Walking in the same park we went to the 1st day of our visit.

Playing at the Park together!
Day 5: Read about our goodbyes with Emilia here.

So hard to say goodbye

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Would a Rose by Any Other Name Smell So Sweet?

Have you ever thought about names, name meanings, and what makes a name beautiful? Here are some great opinions on names. 


"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself."

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Anne Shirley:

"Well I don't know.' Anne looked thoughtful. "I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” 

― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

Diana Barry:

'Oh, I don't think so,' said Diana. 'Anne seems to me real stately and like a queen. But I'd like Kerenhappuch if it happened to be your name. I think people make their names nice or ugly just by what they are themselves. I can't bear Josie or Gertie for names now but before I knew the Pye girls I thought them real pretty.'

'That's a lovely idea, Diana,' said Anne enthusiastically. 'Living so that you beautify your name, even if it wasn't beautiful to begin with...making it stand in people's thoughts for something so lovely and pleasant that they never think of it by itself. Thank you, Diana.”

― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Avonlea

Emilia, we are sure you would be just as sweet if you had a different name! We think your vibrant personality makes your name beautiful!

Just like with Martin, (wrote about his name here) we are keeping Emilia's first name due to her age and the fact that it is pronounceable in English - besides the fact that it is beautiful and we love it! 

Also, like Martin, we will be changing her middle name, which isn't pronounceable in English and has the "ova" ending that means "daughter of" like traditional Bulgarian middle names. Her new middle name will be Rose. It is a family name in Andrew's side of the family. Andrew's grandmother, sister, and niece all have Rose for either a first or middle name. So Emilia will have a great grandmother Rose, Aunt Rose, and a cousin whose middle name is Rose! Doesn't Emilia Rose have a nice ring to it?!

Emilia's Name Fun Facts:

  • Emilia is ranked # 208 in US popularity, but Amelia is ranked # 17 (in year 2013). This name has grown greatly in popularity in the US in the past few years. Emilia is very popular in European countries right now! I can't find statistics for it's popularity in Bulgaria.
  • The name Emilia originates from the Latin “Aemilia,” which derives from the Roman noble family name “Aemilius.” It is believed to come from from the word “aemulus” meaning "trying to equal or excel.” Emilia works very hard to over come her Cerebral Palsy and master gross motor and find motor skills, so the name definitely fits!
  • We aren't for sure if Emilia's name is spelled "Emilia" or "Emiliya" in Bulgarian because we have seen in translated both ways! 
  • We think her nick name is "Emi" because the Cyrillic equivalent was on the back of her shirt for a table cricket tournament in which she played.

Our sweet girl had an opportunity to participate in a table cricket competition for children with disabilities. The Bulgarian/Cyrillic letters for her nick name, Emi, are on the back of her T-shirt.

Monday, May 18, 2015

What's in a Name?

Our sons name was Martin Anev _____. You may be wondering "What will your son's name be? Will you give him a new name? Did you choose the name Martin? Is Martin Bulgarian? Anev sounds Bulgarian, but Martin doesn't!"

The practice of renaming is very common in adoption. We understand why some people choose to rename their children and others don't. We are thinking about partially renaming Martin. We will keep his first name, probably modify his middle name, and change his last name to ours!

Our son's first name is Martin. We think his name was given to him by his birth mother. For a child who is 11 years old, surely his name is by now his identity. We wouldn't dream of changing his name and taking his identity and taking what is probably the only thing he has from his birth mother.

Fun Facts:
  • The name Martin comes from Mars, the ancient god of war in Roman mythology. Martin means "Warrior of Mars" or  "Warlike." (Martin, we think it is fitting that you are called Warrior! How many adversities has life given you, that you have struggled through! Keep fighting! We are coming to bring you home!)
  • While Martin is ranked #265 in the US for a baby boy name, it is a much more popular baby name in European countries. It is not a traditional Bulgarian name, but has recently became more popular. Even so, it would not be as common as other traditional Bulgarian names.
In Bulgaria, middle names are different in the US. Children's middle names are traditionally either their the mother's or father's first name with an "ev" ending for boys and an "eva" ending for girls. The ending means "son of" (or "daughter of"). We are considering changing Martin's middle name to Andrei. This is the Bulgarian form of Andrew and a masculine version of the base of his current name "Anev" minus the "ev" ending. In this way, we can still honor the birth parent he was named after. Besides the connection to a birth parent, Martin's new dad's name is Andrew and my middle name is Ann and he will have a great Aunt Ann! So the middle name Andrei will connect Martin with his new family, his birth family, and his birth country.

Artwork drawn by Martin Andrei in March of 2014

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Waiting Game

Recently, another mom posted this in a Bulgaria adoption facebook support group:

"What did you guys do while waiting to travel? I feel like I'm going to die if I have to wait months and months before meeting my guy. 
frown emoticon So, how can a mama be productive and stay positive during this crazy waiting game?"

That mom got all kinds of responses. We are almost at the end of the wait. With out a doubt, the HARDEST part of this adoption has been the time in between trips. We have met our kids but have to be away from them. After experiencing it, here is the advice I would give:

Create a Support Network

This mom has already done the first thing right! It is hard being separated from you child! Other adoptive parents understand. You can vent in a safe place with people who get it! You will also already have a relationship built when you need parenting advice after the adopting is complete! Our support network isn't only Internet groups. We are so thankful for the real life friendships we have formed with other foster/adoptive families and parents of biological children, and friends with no children, as well as friendships we maintain from college, Bible study, etc.

Explore Your Child's Culture

Andrew and I joined a local Bulgarian culture group formed mostly of Bulgarian families in our area. It has been fun to learn a little more of the culture and to form friendships with families from our children's country.
Bulgarian  Easter Celebration
Enjoy preparing for your kids!

Take the time to prepare a room, clothes, toys and games for your new children. Now is the time for dreaming! Andrew and I have been using the long wait to get the kids bedrooms ready for them. (This had been a big project and it is almost done. I will post about that soon.)

Prepare to be a Parent

While I feel SO ready to be a mother, I have still been consciously preparing to be the best mother I can be to M and E.  For me this has included praying and reading parenting books. Since trip one far I have read Love Me Feed Me by Katja Rowell, MD and listened to Brain Storm by Dan Siegel. I am 1 chapter in to No Drama Discipline, also by Dan Siegel along with Tina Payne Bryson.

Enjoy the last months together before your family grows!

Andrew and I have consciously been trying to take the time to enjoy our last few months as couple, going on dates, walks in the park, hanging out with friends, etc. Soon life will be happily busier with our 2 new additions. Dates and alone time with each other, as well as late nights at a friends house will not be so easy. There will be bedtimes or babysitters to think about! For a family who already have children but will be adding more, I think it would also be important to enjoy your family the way it is.  Adding new children will change the dynamics. All though love is not a pie, time is. You will have just as much love for all your children but it might be hard to spend the same amount of time with each child one-on-one.

Bowling with friends in January!

Traveling is definitely easier with out kids! I also took an out of state trip to visit my family. On the trip I got to meet my new baby niece Vivienne and color eggs with my niece, Annalise and nephew Collin. While visiting my family, my mom, sisters and grandma surprised me with a shower.

Find Resources for Your Child!

Use the waiting time to find research specialist to meet your child's particular needs, whether that be a pediatrician familiar with treating children coming from an orphanage in another country, an adoption therapist, speech therapist, or some other professional!  Andrew visited several schools and choose one. This week I will be meeting with the school psychologist to discuss how we can help the transition to English and the American school system to be a success.